'Parking Lot #9'
photo by Samantha Malay, Long Beach, Washington, 1989

by Samantha Malay
published in The Very Edge: Poems (Flying Ketchup Press 2020)
ISBN-13: 978-1-970151-23-7

you can stand in the doorway to look at the night
and pray against a family fate
of muddy yards and porch pianos

seek comfort in upkeep
wasps beyond the ladder’s reach
a sliver of soap on the edge of the sink
the glitter of glass shards beneath a broom

picture yourself covered in leaves
pockets emptied of matchbooks and coins
limbs no longer hinged for gait
far from the grasp of hasty plans

'Oxbow Inn #1'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1991

by Samantha Malay
published in The Closed Eye Open, June 2020

Loose ends, my brother and sister and I emerged from tree-canopy and Oregon rain to stay in a noisy house in Kettle Falls. We’d lived without faucets or refrigerators but knew the names of many plants and how to detect thunder on the horizon.

The three of us ate grocery store chicken and bean salad on a TV tray and watched shows we’d never seen before, tight polyester pants and laugh tracks and deodorant ads. The livingroom was separated from the murky kitchen by a grey metal tool shelf cluttered with jars of root-water spider plants and dust. Pans sat abandoned in the sink, a greasy dishtowel shoved through the oven handle. Stacks of mail crowded car keys and a pair of nail clippers on the counter. Joke books floundered on the toilet tank. The sprinkler ran until the lawn was a swamp. At first it felt like a dangerous vacation.

Across the street from a cemetery, 665 Kalmia Street was full of belongings and furniture in uncomfortable relationships, as if people had moved in and weren’t finished unpacking, or were just about to move out. Mom lived there with her boyfriend Jerry and his two sons, Tom and Bruce, high school seniors, a grade skipped or failed by one or the other, who couldn’t have resembled each other less if they’d been unrelated. Bruce had frizzy hair like his girlfriend. Barely six years older, they looked at me from the land of adults, where candlewax covered nightstands and albums were stacked against walls. Ashtrays were filled, bottles were emptied, then slowly filled again with discarded coins.

Sheila slept on a window seat near the wall phone under paper curtains printed with blue and purple hydrangeas. I had the floor of the broom closet off the kitchen. Maybe Ben got the couch. We kept our clothes in a cardboard box.

My new classmates incubated chicken eggs. We broke the shell of the unhatched one, saw a fully-formed creature, wet feathers, closed eyes, feet and legs curled.

On the last day of school, water balloons soaked our shirts and jeans. I sat on a log with my friends at the edge of the playground, where the field met the parking lot. I wrote letters to them that summer, when we returned to the cabin. I tried to feather my hair in the reflection on the porch window, but it had grown too long, so I went back to barrettes.

Our family unraveled, in time measured in maps and missing report cards and not enough money for stamps.

'Trailer #1'
photo by Samantha Malay, on the way to Onion Creek, Washington, 1990

by Samantha Malay
published in Shark Reef – A Literary Magazine, issue 36, summer 2020


trespass quietly
to smell the end of summer
in the sundown trees
and lunchbox rust
an uneven history
of bee-stings and scorch
branches broken to fit in the stove
dirt from other towns still on our shoes

'Parking Lot #10'
photo by Samantha Malay, Friday Harbor, Washington, 1989

by Samantha Malay
published in Soliloquies Anthology, issue 24.2

hot buckle
tangled hair
stained mouth
dirty feet
wet towel
tank top
bra strap
patch pocket
broken shells
floor coins
fried chicken
parking lot
pay phone
bumper dent
tow hitch
beer cans
backseat sand

'Swap Shop #2'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1999

by Samantha Malay
published in Rougarou Journal of Arts and Literature, Winter 2020

when we no longer live in our bodies
do we inhabit the spaces between
voices cupped in bedspread folds
hands around a match
winter kitchen cookbook stains
unmarked keys
missing teeth
tufts of feather and bone?

see me in the lath and plaster
clothesline tied to cherry trees
empty spools
diaper pins
carpenter ants and gutter vines

'Charolais Motel'
photo by Samantha Malay, near Nampa, Idaho, 1997

by Samantha Malay
published March 2020 in Wild Roof Journal, Issue 1

reprinted February 2021 by In Parentheses, https://inparentheses.art/2021/02/09/inland-and-other-poems-by-s-malay/

in winter we dreamed of birds
shoulder blades and arms and wrists
hinged as if for flight
a kinship record held in what we left behind

torn pages and ink blossoms
strands of hair in swingset chains
sand dollars in coffee cans

wait with me on the steps to the porch
until we’re signaled to migrate
by an unpracticed language
and an angle of light

'Hillside Motel'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1990

by Samantha Malay
published March 2020 in Wild Roof Journal, Issue 1

One spring we slept in a canvas tent
near an abandoned homestead
at the edge of a field.

My parents and their friend Gunner
salvaged tongue-and-groove boards for a summer shack
peeled logs for our cabin
and tried to keep the yellowjackets off their sweat.

After the sun went down
and the trees blended with the night
they drank Lucky beer in short brown bottles
and laughed while they solved the puzzles
inside the caps.

The top bunk bed was mine
and when I couldn’t sleep
I watched the patterns on the ceiling
made by the kerosene lamp below.

When Gunner left the next summer
his car bent the weeds that grew down the middle of the road
that led away from our property.

We dug holes for bottles around the garden
to scare the gophers
with the sound of the wind inside the glass.

'Puget Sound Cafe'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1989

by Samantha Malay
published March 2020 in Wild Roof Journal, Issue 1

Issue 1: Gallery 1

ask the dowse for an underground creek
but seek no promise of a constant source

proof we were here
is buried like seeds
wrist-spindled kite string
and remnants of letters on typewriter ribbon
tangle in tree roots now

with a wish for unbroken limbs
we cover the well
and squander no words on what can’t be seen

'Villia del Mar Motel'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1990

The Geography of Doubt
by Samantha Malay
published March 2020 in Wild Roof Journal, Issue 1


Tamaracks, pine trees, aspen and wild roses grew at the edge of the field
where chamomile, sheep sorrel, alfalfa and thistles tangled with grass.

We felt the heat of the day in the dust between our toes
as the late-summer smell of dusk enveloped us.

Stars filled the whole sky as we lay on our backs, a blanket on the ground.
Far away, we heard the rustling and thumping of a startled grouse.

We lived in dry mountain woods and despite our vegetable garden and rabbit hutch and root cellar, we were no match for the gophers and the coyotes and the thunderstorms.

We felt the fragile boundary between hope and haste,
between watching for signs and quiet paranoia,
between saving seeds and leaving the homestead to the dead of winter.
Between wanting to know and listening to silence.

There were lean years even when we cut enough firewood
and brought the hay in before the rain.

For a long time we believed that our gamble would bind us together.

'Parking Lot #2'
photo by Samantha Malay, Las Vegas, Nevada, 1990

by Samantha Malay
published August 19, 2019 in Genre: Urban Arts, No. 8


inside my suitcase
in the trunk of the rental car
clothes wrinkle around motel soaps and rolls of film
the horizon floats above the dashboard

another summer
swimsuit straps tied at my neck
I leaned out the window
yellow lines slid under shadows of tires

lock the screen door
when the yard gets dark
I’ll call from a pay phone
when I’m close to the border